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Undergraduate Research

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Marine Soundscape of Tropical Cyclone

For my senior thesis, I investigated changes in biological sound production associated with the storm.

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Seagrass Food-Webs

The aim of this project was to examine how predator and prey interactions affect the resilience of seagrass communities.

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Toxicity of Plastic vs. Stainless Steel

Experiments were performed to compare the acute toxicity of stainless-steel containers and three common plastics

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Soundscape Analysis

Using autonomous recorders, we examined the soundscapes at an inshore and an offshore limestone reef in Florida.

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Black Sea Bass Habitat Characterization

The objective of the study was to understand the abundance and size distribution of BSB at artificial reefs, relative to that of natural reefs.

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Bottlenose Dolphin Habitat Association

Compared the relative abundance of dolphins at artificial reefs and natural reefs to test whether their associations differed between the two habitats

Marine Soundscape of Tropical Cyclone

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QUESTIONS

Using the data from these acoustic recorders, the aims of this study were (a) to investigate the underwater soundscape associated with this tropical storm, and (b) to investigate changes in fish sound production over the duration of the storm.

OBJECTIVES

  • Ambient noise levels were significantly higher during the storm, and the highest increases were observed at lower frequencies (≤ 500 Hz).

  • At the shallow water station, fish sounds decreased significantly during the storm and were correlated with storm conditions (storm surge, water temperature), although fish sounds increased quickly after the storm’s passage.

  • Fish sounds at the deeper water station increased steadily through the study period and were only correlated with lunar cycle.

  • The storm did appear to elicit a behavioral response from the shallow-water fish community, and ambient noise levels likely limited the abilities of marine species to use sound for activities such as communication.

Food-Web Approach to Seagrass Conservation

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QUESTIONS

The aim of this project is to better understand how pinfish affect seagrass health and productivity.​

  1. Do pinfish affect seagrass health and productivity?

  2. Is there a negative direct effect, a positive indirect effect, or no effect?

OBJECTIVES

  • Seagrass blades in pinfish inclusion cages had significantly larger surface area and biomass, in addition to significantly smaller biomass of epibionts.

  • Growth rates were the highest in the pinfish inclusion cages. Invertebrate density was highest in the open plot and functional diversity was highest in the consumer exclusion cages.

  • The results from this study suggest that pinfish have the ability to significantly increase seagrass growth and productivity, and the exclusion of consumers can alter invertebrate density and diversity.

Toxicity of Plastic vs. Stainless Steel

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QUESTIONS

The aim of this study is to assess the acute toxicity of three common plastics (polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene, and polystyrene) on marine organisms, and to compare the toxicity of plastic to that of stainless steel and glass containers.​

OBJECTIVES

  •  The three plastics had measurable acute toxicity, polystyrene had the highest morality when incubated at 24°C temperature, while polyethylene terephthalate had the highest mortality when incubated at 28°C.

  • Mortality of barnacles incubated in water from stainless steel, was statistically insignificant to that of well water stored in glass at both 24°C and 28°C

  • Our preliminary data suggest that increased temperatures result in higher concentrations of toxins being released from plastic. Stainless-steel or glass may be safer containment materials than plastic

Soundscape Analysis

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IMPORTANCE

Soundscape ecology can tell us information about how climate, land transformations, biodiversity patterns, the timing of life-history events, and human activities create dynamic soundscape. In Tampa Bay and the West Florida Shelf,  there is a dynamic ecosystem consisting of marine species and human-related activities, such as vessel traffic. Soundscape ecology will allow us to understand the effects of sound on these ecosystems.

QUESTIONS

  1. Did diel differences in sound pressure level exist at individual stations (summer and winter)?

  2. Did seasonal differences in sound pressure level exist between stations?

  3. Did seasonal differences in sound pressure level exist within each of the stations?

Characterization of Black Sea Bass Habitat

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QUESTIONS

The objective of this study is to understand the abundance and size distribution of Black Sea Bass (BSB) at artificial reefs, relative to that of natural reefs. Understanding the habitat characteristics that are vital to juvenile and adult BSB survival, will also help us understand how BSB diet differs relative to habitats and size. 

OUTCOMES

  • Our data showed that size distributions of BSB caught by angling at artificial and natural reefs were similar. A hypothesis of why we didn’t catch juvenile BSB is that they might not be ‘bold’ enough to attach the bait.

  • Similar size frequencies for blue head BSB in both artificial and natural habitats suggest that they may not have a preference for either type.

  • We conclude that multiple sampling methods (e.g. angling and trapping) should be used to obtain accurate measures of the size distribution of a population.

Habitat Association of Bottlenose Dolphins

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QUESTIONS

My research during the spring of 2016 was focused on comparing the relative abundance of dolphins at artificial reefs and natural reefs to test whether their associations differed between the two habitats

  1. Do bottlenose dolphins prefer one habitat over the other?

  2. Where they at one habitat more often than the other habitat?

OBJECTIVES

  • In both reef pairs investigated, the artificial reef site had significantly higher dolphin relative abundance than the natural limestone reef

  • In our study area, artificial reefs may provide better foraging habitat for dolphins than natural reefs due to differences in prey species or abundance

  • In both reef pairs, a seasonal peak occurred in June – July, corresponding to dolphin distribution patterns in the study area